Wednesday 13 December 2017

Protocol restriction dashes hopes of Obama visit to North

Shane Hickey, Keven Keane and Colm Kelpie

A TRIP by US President Barack Obama to the North looks increasingly unlikely during his visit here in May because of diplomatic constraints.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday indicated that a journey across the Border would be against protocol rules.

It is widely expected that the large US delegation will arrive in Ireland at the end of May, just before Mr Obama travels to London for an official visit there.

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness raised the possibility, of a visit to the North, with Mr Kenny.

However, Mr Kenny said that under diplomatic rules the US president cannot cross the border without first setting foot in London.

"The problem actually is that the president, under existing protocol, is not allowed to go to Northern Ireland without first having to go to Britain," he said.

"So if President Obama were to decide to go close to the border, actually from a protocol perspective he's expected to go to London before he would go to Northern Ireland," Mr Kenny added.

Although no official date has been announced, Mr Obama is expected to arrive that weekend and will most likely be in Ireland from Sunday, May 22, to Tuesday, May 24.

Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth will be in the country from Tuesday, May 17, to Friday, May 20.

Among the locations that the queen may visit on her trip to Ireland is Coolmore Stud in Co Tipperary.

A spokesman for Coolmore said last night that while no formal arrangement has been made yet, the stud would welcome a visit by the queen.


In the Dail yesterday, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams asked if Mr Obama could stop off in his Louth constituency before travelling to Belfast. Mr Kenny said the issue was out of his hands.

There is speculation in the US that Mr Obama's visit will amount to just five hours.

Journalist Niall O'Dowd quoted White House insiders as saying the visit amounted to a "hot minute" trip where he would arrive in Dublin for several events before flying to Moneygall, the ancestral home of his distant relatives.

Irish Independent

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